The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Franz Von Papen

(Part 5 of 15)

[Page 922]

(2) Despite his appreciation of the Nazi menace, von Papen rigorously proceeded to conduct negotiations which resulted in placing Hitler and the Nazi regime in power. Following his resignation as Chancellor on 17 November 1932 von Papen continued as Chancellor pro-tem until 2 December 1932, when General Schleicher was appointed to replace him (2902-PS).

Almost as soon as he vacated the Chancery, von Papen began plotting to unseat his arch-rival Schleicher. On about 10 December 1932 -- less than a month after he was willing to use force to suppress the Nazis -- von Papen requested Kurt von Schroeder, the Cologne banker, to arrange a meeting between Hitler and von Papen (according to the statement of Schroeder, made at Nurnberg, 5 December 1945). Schroeder was one of a group of rightist industrial and financial leaders who had previously been organized by Hitler's man, Wilhelm Keppler, to provide means of bolstering Nazi economic power.

Hitler himself at this time understood von Papen. He knew that Papen's ideas were not too different from his own to preclude agreement. He knew that Papen's personal rivalry with Schleicher would make Papen amenable to some agreement whereby Schleicher might be unhorsed and Papen restored to a position of public prominence. He accordingly asked Keppler to arrange for a meeting with Papen (reported in an affidavit of Wilhelm Keppler, executed at Nurnberg, 26 November 1945).

The result of these maneuvers was the now-famous meeting between Hitler and Papen at banker Schroeder's Cologne home in January 1933. It was at this meeting that Hitler and Papen reached an understanding, subject only to the ironing out of minor details. It was at this meeting that Papen completely committed himself to go along with Nazi policy.

The events of this day have been described by Kurt von Schroeder (in a statement referred to above):

"On 4 January 1933,Hitler, von Papen, Hess, Himmler and

[Page 923]

Keppler came to my house in Cologne. Hitler, von Papen and I went to my den where we were closeted in a discussion lasting about two hours. Hess, Himmler and Keppler did not participate in this discussion but were in the next room. Keppler, who had helped arrange this meeting, came from Berlin; von Papen came alone from his home in the Saar; and Hitler brought Hess and Himmler with him, as they were traveling with him to Lippe in connection with the election campaign. The discussion was only between Hitler and Papen; I personally had nothing to say in the discussion. The meeting started about 11:30 A. M. and the first question was raised by Hitler as to why it was necessary to punish the two Nazis who had killed the Communist in Silesia. Von Papen explained to Hitler that it had been necessary to punish these two Nazis, although they had not been put to death, because the law was on the books and all political offenders under the law must have some punishment. He further explained to Hitler that it might be possible to get a pardon from President Hindenburg to give serious consideration to making Hitler the Chancellor at the time that Hindenburg met with Hitler and von Papen and that he had understood that Hindenburg was perfectly willing to discuss this matter with Hitler at that time. He said that it came as a great surprise and shock to him when Hindenburg was unwilling to do so and he felt that someone, probably von Schleicher, was responsible for the change in Hindenburg's point of view. Next, von Papen told Hitler that it seemed to him the best thing to have the conservatives and nationalists who had supported him join with the Nazis to form a government. He proposed that this new government should, if possible, be headed by Hitler and von Papen on the same level. Then Hitler made a long speech in which he said if he were made Chancellor, it would be necessary for him to be head of the government but that supporters of Papen could go into his (Hitler's) government as ministers when they were willing to go along with him in his policy of changing many things. These changes he outlined at this time included elimination of Social Democrats, Communists and Jews from leading positions in Germany and the restoration of order in public life. Von Papen and Hitler reached an agreement in principle so that many of the points which had brought them in conflict could be eliminated and they could find a way to get together. They agreed that further details would have to be

[Page 924]

worked out and that this could be done in Berlin or some other convenient place.

"I understand they met later with von Ribbentrop and worked out further details.

"The meeting broke up about 1:30 and the three of us joined Hess, Himmler and Keppler at lunch, during which there was general conversation which lasted until about four o'clock when they, all the guests, departed."

Having reached an understanding with Hitler, von Papen directed his energy toward convincing President Hindenburg to allow Hitler to form a new government. In this task he had to overcome Hindenburg's fears that this appointment would lead to domestic oppressions and risk of war (according to a statement of Otto Meissner, Nurnberg, 28 November 1945).

Von Papen himself subsequently admitted the important role he played in bringing Hitler to power. At Berchtesgaden on 12 February 1938, immediately after Hitler had forced Schuschnigg to sign the document which led to the Austrian Anschluss, Hitler turned to Papen and remarked:

"Herr von Papen, through your assistance I was appointed Chancellor of Germany and thus the Reich was saved from the abyss of communism. I will never forget that."

Papen replied: "Ja, wohl, Mein Fuehrer." (2995-PS)

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